In 1881 the future National League wanted to upgrade its image and target a more upscale fan base by doubling ticket prices, banning gambling, and outlawing alcohol sales. Several team owners who happened to be brewers refused to accept the new rules and banded together to form what would eventually become the American League. The National League attempted to discredit the new league by dubbing it the Beer and Whiskey League. This, of course only made the new league more popular. Duh!

Saturday, April 24, 2004

Power Puff Boys

Bejeezus, anyone care to explain what the hell happened in the American League Friday? Was there some kind of strange epidemic going around causing AL pitchers to throw gopher balls? Or perhaps there is a strange alignment in the stars that has reduced the gravitational pull of the earth ... hmmm, I do feel a bit lighter today. Here are the run and hit totals for the fourteen AL games played on Friday:

Total RunsTotal Hits

Boston @ New York

Cleveland @ Detroit

Toronto @ Baltimore

Seattle @ Texas

Minnesota @ Kansas City

"California" @ Oakland

Tampa Bay @ Chicago

With the exception of the Drays/PaleHose game (more on that later), the bats were popping. Now, of course, the numbers are slightly misleading in that with the exception of the Coffee/Cowboy and Twinkies/Roys games, the other four big bat games were embarassing blowouts. The Motor City Kitties, for instance, clobbered the Tribe 17-3. The Damned, er ... I mean the Red Sox, also destroyed the Evil Empire 11-2. In five of the seven games, the winning team scored in the double digits whereas in the NL on Friday only one team, the Stros, managed that feat.

By the way, considering that Mr. Softy (a.k.a. Jose Contreras) has pitched a whopping 11 innings in his last three starts (yes, in three starts not in three relief appearances) and possesses a whopping 10.54 ERA, I think Lucchino not only owes Stoneboner a big apology for calling the Yankees the Evil Empire but should send a nice big bouquet of roses to 161st Street and River Avenue thanking the Yankees for outbidding the perennial Bridesmaids of Baseball for Contreras's services. What a wonderful way to spend $32 Million. Of course, it's still early in the season and you don't worry too much about a few bad starts but as Larry over at Replacement Level Yankee pointed out not too long ago, Yankee Fans currently seem to have a lot not to worry about.

Last October, during the World Series, Torre was roundly criticized (particularly by the more statistically-oriented folks) for refusing to send in his best pitcher, Mariano, in non-save situations. Rob Neyer, in particular, felt compelled to write not just one but two articles on this very topic. Well, I bring this up tonight because I happened to catch the end of the Dodgers/Giants game. I know we normally discuss only the American League but I think Jim Tracy's use of current-Cy-Young winner Eric "the second G is silent" Gagne deserves a special mention. With the score tied 4-4, Gagne came in to pitch in the top of the ninth and tenth innings in order to preserve the tie and give the Dodgers a chance to win (which they eventually did in the bottom of the twelfth inning). It seems to me only common sense that a tie-game in the ninth inning would be just as (if not more) important than going into the ninth with a three-run lead. Oh, if only Bob Melvin had the wisdom of Jim Tracy.

And finally, returning briefly to the Drays/PaleHose game: in my not very humble opinion, this should have been the marquee game of the day. Of course, according to national media outlets, the big news was on the Angels/A's and the RedSox/Yankees. But, in the little-recognized game today in Chicago, there was an excellent pitching match-up between Zambrano (3-1) and Loaiza (3-0). Potentially, one of these two pitchers would have come out as the first four-game winner of the season (athough, as luck would have it, both ended up with a no-decision) While winning four games 's not necessarily a significant milestone, I think the fact the first four-game winner is not wearing pinstripes or has an elephant embroidered on his uniform should be an interesting story. But, of course it's not .

Ok, it's late and I've written for far longer than I had intended so I'm going to end it here. I just want to add a quick note thanking you folks for your great e-mails. I will get to them in my next post and (drum roll please), I will finally have a formula to indicate the infamous Affordability Index.

Friday, April 23, 2004

The Baddest Part of Town

Odd alliances will form (just ask the Sunnis and Shiites in Iraq): Peter Sagal, host of the most annoying show on all of National Public Radio, won me over with his piece on Chicago baseball--from the perspective of a Red Sox fan living in the Windy City. (On the calendar, click on April 19, then choose "Peter Sagal Talks Baseball"; you'll need RealPlayer). Sagal makes note of the White Sox being as popular in Illinois as the St. Louis Cardinals (as printed in the Sports Illustrated baseball preview), but fails to mention that in the same survey White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf ranks as one of the most hated sports figures in the Land of Lincoln. In any case, it's a good piece and you owe it to yourself to give it a listen, if for no reason other than you won't have to hear Thom Brennaman talk about Kerry Wood's nail-biting trixie of a wife.

Thursday, April 22, 2004

Natural Around the Horn Killers (Cinema Edition)

Broadcast News: For those of you who may never have heard a Mariner’s broadcast – and if you haven’t do yourself a favor and take a listen to the sweet baritone voice of Dave “Grand Salami” Niehaus on MLB Radio – the Mariners have a rather strange format. Dave Niehaus and a former athlete (most often, Ron Fairly) normally does the television broadcast for the first half of the game and then switches to radio for the second half. Conversely, Rick Rizz (along with either Dave Henderson or Dave Valle) does the radio for the first half and television for the second half. I’m not sure why they do this because their best broadcasts are those blackout dates when there is no television broadcast and the entire game is done by Dave Niehaus and Rick Rizz.

Anyhoo, so in today’s afternoon broadcast, Niehaus mentioned very briefly that after today’s game the Mariners would be going on a ten-day roadtrip starting in Texas and then moving on to Baltimore and finally “lovely Detroit.” Yes, that’s an exact quote from Niehaus: “lovely Detroit.” So, why am I telling you this? Because right after saying this, Rick Rizz let out a big guffaw followed by Niehaus’s own stifled laughter. I’ve been to Detroit several times and it is anything but lovely but still, damn, to dis the entire city on a radio broadcast. That’s cold.

Singles: For the past several years, the Mariners have been both one of the best hitting teams and one of the worst slugging teams. Now, apparently (yeah yeah, I know it’s early), the Mariners are well on their way to being worst in both categories. But, perhaps there is hope. Here are the bottom five in three offensive categories:


Boston (.260)New York (.396)Boston (.400)

Seattle (.257)Tampa Bay (.324)New York (.396)

Tampa Bay (.248)Seattle (.320)Seattle (.384)

New York (.229)Anaheim (.319)Tampa Bay (.371)

Toronto (.210)Toronto (.210)Toronto (.353)

The Mariners aside, what you have in each of these three categories are two very good teams (or what are supposed to be good teams) and two very bad teams (again, at least on paper). The fact Toronto is at the bottom of every category should come as no surprise to anyone because they are playing some really awful baseball right now. The fact the Yankees appear in all three categories should also come as no surprise since their early struggles have been well documented. So, why is there hope for the Mariners? Well, if you’re optimistic, you can see Seattle’s early offensive struggles in the same light as Boston and New York – that is, they’ll eventually get out of it (because, really, does anyone think A-Hole is going to stay below the Mendoza Line all season, no matter how much Mariner Nation, Red Sox Nation, and Ranger Nation may wish it so?). Of course, if you’re a pessimist, you can see Seattle as being just like Toronto and Tampa Bay: sure, the offense might get a bit better but, overall, we’re doomed to the basement for quite a while.

And by the way, is it just me or does it seem really weird that in both AVG and SLG, four of the five worst teams are all in the AL East? Does this mean that the pitching in the AL East is really that much better? Makes one wonder and if I weren't so lazy I might look that up but perhaps I won't have to because you will and then you'll let me know. Remember, kids, this is the internet ... it's all about being interactive.

The Color of Money: Phil Rogers, of ESPN, recently had an article discussing Magglio’s current contract negotiations. If you recall, dear reader, this is an issue I’ve been discussing for quite some time now. Rather than comparing his salary to other player’s salaries, Rogers takes a look at several players’ salaries in relationship to overall payroll (Magglio’s current $14 Million makes up 21% of Chicago’s total payroll). As I had indicated before, when taking into consideration any player’s particular salary, the most important number to look at is not the absolute dollars but rather the affordability index (a metric that I’m still working on). The value of a player’s abilities should be measured, in other words, to the team’s overall payroll.

On a related note, I recently received an e-mail from one of our readers, who I’ll call Mr. X since there was no name attached to the e-mail, with an analysis of Magglio’s numbers that were far more sophisticated than what I had given (when comparing Maggs to Garret Anderson). Since I’m too lazy to post all of his carefully worked out spreadsheets (and I’m assuming the reader is a he … apologies if I am wrong), I’ll simply summarize his main points:

** Mr. X points out that my use of career averages is misleading and, in fact, if you look at the last three full seasons, the difference between Magglio and Garret is even more remarkable. Looking at these three-year stats, Magglio should be valued anywhere between 7%-14% more than Anderson (depending on how much you value OBP over or under SA).

** Mr. X also uses three different statistical models to figure out relative values: OPS, 1.8*OBP=SA, and OPS/(1-OBP). According to OPS, Maggs is 9-11% better than Anderson whereas according to the second metric, Maggs is 10-12% better. The most interesting metric, however, is the third one in which Magglio is shown to be a whopping 17%-19% better. As Mr. X himself explains it, “The reason he [Magglio] shows up much better using this [third] stat than he did using either OBP or SLG alone is that, unlike the first two combination stats, this one is a non-linear function. Instead of relating his offensive contributions to Plate Appearances, it relates them to Outs Created (PA-H-BB-HBP). That puts a real premium on getting on base.” I like this stat a lot and I would agree that linear functions tend to make relative comparisons inaccurate; however, I would quibble with the weight that Mr. X places on OBP. Magglio is not a lead-off hitter but rather a #3 or #4 hitter. His primary function, in other words, is to get runners in. To this extent, Magglio’s SLG should in fact be given greater (although not necessarily more) weight in relationship to OBP.

** And finally, Mr. X brings in a third factor – the way-off-the-scale Barry Bonds. In order to determine Magglio’s fiscal value, Mr. X compares Anderson to Bonds using the same three metrics mentioned above. Averaging the various differences between the two, Mr. X surmises that Bonds is worth 57% more than Anderson; hence, if Anderson is making $12 Million than Bonds should be making $18.8 Million. Considering that Bonds is actually making $18 Million, this would appear to be fairly accurate. So, assuming that Bonds is worth $18 Million (or thereabouts) and Garret is worth $12 Million (or thereabouts), then Magglio is worth approximately $13 Million (well, technically $12.84 Million but let’s just round off). But, again, this assumes that Bonds is only worth $18 Million and one could certainly make an argument that he’s very underpaid (try comparing him to A-Hole or Money Ramirez, for example). Additionally, I would argue that the one problem with Mr. X’s salary numbers is that while the performance value is not linear, the salary value is. I think one needs to understand that the scale between the league minimum and the maximum (well, there’s no league maximum but let’s just use A-Hole’s $25 Million as the theoretical maximum figure) bends on a curve or perhaps on several curves. Also, the shape of the curve is not absolute for every team but is a variable of, again, the team’s entire payroll.

** All in all, I will certainly concede that Mr. X is a lot better with numbers than I am (and possibly has better baseball smarts than I do) and I hope that my summary here has done justice to his rather impressive e-mail. But I think his analysis as well as Phil Rogers’s above-mentioned article only emphasizes how badly we need an Affordability Index.

The Pillow Book: Rob Neyer has an article about why it’s so great to be a baseball fan today. It’s a rather cute article but what I like most about it is that he spends a great deal talking about great baseball books and includes a link to one of his older articles about the essential books that belong in most any baseball library. Go read!

Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown: The cinetrix (to whom this cinema edition is dedicated) just informed me of a Twins blog (Bat-Girl). Her recent post on Lew Ford is certainly worth more than a few guffaws. Also, on a recent post from Bambino's Curse, there was a link to another woman-authored baseball blog, Cursed and First (technically, it's a Patriots and Red Sox blog ... hence, "the first"). Hopefully there will be more and more women blogging about baseball so that the baseball blogosphere will start looking more like the audience at a Poison concert and less like that of a Motorhead concert ... not that there's anything wrong with Motorhead (or anything right with Poison) mind you.

The Miracle Worker: Paul Abbott is now 2-1. He's pitched 19 innings in three starts and has a 2.37 ERA. Hitters are currently hitting .147 against him. In his one loss, Abbott pitched five hitless innings against the Yankees and ultimately gave up two runs in the sixth inning. The Drays then went on to lose the game 3-2. Look, if the Marlins could win the world series then I don't see why Abbott couldn't be a potential Cy Young candidate ... oops, excuse me, I have to go ... I think the Easter Bunny is knocking on my door.

Monday, April 19, 2004

Free Access to Internet Around the Horn

Here’s my irregularly regular roundup of what’s going on in baseball and the blogosphere:

First thing’s first, we bring you the Crosby Watch:




Poor Bubba didn’t get a single at-bat during the much over-hyped Red Sox/Yankees series. Considering how anemic that offense has been, I can't see why they don't give ol’ Bubba a few more at-bats just to make the Crosby Watch a little more interesting.

We’re the Alternablog: Since there has been no shortage of press on the ridiculously overhyped Yanks/BoSox series, I’m going to limit myself to four comments.

1. I’m glad to see that I was not the only one annoyed by the fat white guy with the ugly striped shirt sitting (or standing) behind homeplate. Who the hell is this moron and does he realize he’s a moron? It seems that he made quite an impression on the blogosphere.

2. Truppiano, the voice of the Red Sox (at least on radio), did a post-game interview with The Passion after Saturday’s game. The BoSox won the game 5-2 but did so with the help of four walks and a buttload of singles. In pointing out that the game lacked any big hits (outside of Money Ramirez’s solo homerun), Truppiano felt compelled to break into Roberta Flack’s “Killing Me Softly with His Song” and then proclaim that the Boston beat the Yankees by “Killing them softly with singles and walks.” There’s got to be a rule about drinking and doing broadcasts … even in Boston.

3. At one point on Friday’s game, the world’s most annoying baseball announcer, Tim McCarver, mentioned that Jeter, Sheffield, Giambi, and Posada were very selective hitters while Enrique Wilson, Tony Clark and A-Hole are willing to chase pitches. Hmmm, has the.156 hitting MVP taken such a large tumble that he’s now compared to Wilson and Clark? Oh, how the mighty (annoying) have fallen.

4. Did anyone else stick around for the post-game interview after Friday’s game? Did anyone else think it was weird for Bill Mueller to open his interview on national TV by saying, “Well, first, let me thank God, my lord and savior, since it is through Him that everything is made possible”? I don’t have anything against religion but it always annoys me when athletes thank God. Hey, if everything goes through God then is Mueller suggesting that God is responsible for the Curse of the Bambino?

Let’s keep making fun of post-game interviews: Terry Mulholland, who was traded from the Mariners to the Twins for $1 (I kid you not), made his Minnesota debut this last Saturday against Kansas City. While the interviewer was quick to point out that Mully did technically pitch 1.1 innings, he apparently forgot to mention that in those 1.1. innings, Mully allowed four hits and had to be pulled when he loaded the bases. If it wasn’t for J.C. Romero’s ability to come in and get two outs, Mully’s ERA would be out of the stratosphere.

We Suck Less: Well, the Mariners finally won a series but as those eternal pessimists at the U.S.S. Mariner point out, there’s still a lot to be worried about. The Mariners may have hit three homeruns on Sunday’s rubber match but that puts them on pace for a whopping 94 homeruns for the season. In the last three years, no team, according to John Levesque of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, who has hit less than 150 homeruns has made the playoffs.

And maybe the Angels really suck too: There’s been a lot of talk about how good the Angels are and all the great moves they made over the off-season. And, certainly, as a Mariners fan who has seen the M’s drop five of six to the Halos I would have to agree that they look good but then I took a quick glance at their record. The Angels are currently 7-6. If you take out the six games against the Mariners, the Angels are a rather woeful 2-5 against the Elephants and the team formerly owned by George Dubya. Kind of makes you wonder or at least it does me.

What are you doing Lou?: On Saturday, the Drays were trailing the PaleHose 4-1 in the bottom of the ninth. With two outs, the Drays were able to get a man on first and second with the number nine hitter, Fick (.143 at the time) due up. Not surprisingly, Louie put in a pinch hitter. Marte, a lefty was pitching, and I know Louie loves the lefty-righty matchups (which I personally think is incredibly over-rated). On his bench were Toby Hall (hitting .333) and Tino Martinez (.320). So, Louie decides not to put in Tino since he’s a left-handed bat. Ok, makes sense. You would think then he would be put in Hall especially since Hall and Fick are both catchers. Yeah, you would think that but instead he puts in Jason Romano. Jason who? Exactly. Jason Romano, he of the might .125 season average and the even mightier .200 career average. Someone please explain this to me. I think Louie might be spending too many late nights at the tracks with his new best buddy, Zimmer-man.

Let’s stay with the Drays a little longer: Whoo-hee, Paul Abbott has two quality starts in a row. Perhaps he will be this year’s Esteban Loiza? Or maybe not. Anyhoo, despite his 1-1 record, Abbott has pitched 13 innings over two games and has chalked up a 1.38 ERA. I’m definitely going to have to keep an eye on old Mr. Abbott. I wonder, though, if he’s ever going to get enough strikeouts in a single game to reward those Drays fans with free hot wings from Hooters. Man, I love that promo.

And for something new entirely: I realized that there were some teams that I have hardly mentioned in any of my posts so I decided to look around for an interesting story and, to be honest, there’s really nothing about the Blays, the O’s, or the Roys that I find particularly interesting. It’s fun to write about good teams and really bad teams but not so fun to write about mediocre teams; however, I did manage to find something rather interesting about the Indians. Most notably: these guys are actually pretty good despite having a 4-8 record (hey, that makes them a game ahead of the Mariners). They have the third-best team batting average (.298 … right behind Texas’s .312 and Minnesota’s .304). They also have the second-highest number of team home runs (17), the third highest OBP (.364), the third highest RBI (65) and they lead the league in total hits (145). In fact, if you take into consideration park factors, the Indians probably have the most potent office thus far this season (since the only two other teams close to them, Minnesota and Texas, both have extreme hitting friendly parks).

So, why the hell are they 4-8? The obvious answer would be because their pitching sucks but, in fact, that’s not true at all. While not stellar, they currently have the fifth-best team ERA (.429) right in front of the Yankees (.431) but way behind the number four Red Sox (.389). Perhaps this is just a matter of some bad luck? I don’t know the answer but I do know it’s a rather interesting set of stats that might indicate some good things to come for those Tribes fans. Perhaps the Indians will be this year’s version of the White Sox (the team in 2003 who led the league in run differential – that is, the difference between the number of runs scored and number of runs allowed – but still managed to end the season with a rather subpar record).

And finally: How badly do the Red Sox miss ramoN and Trot “skip, and run” Nixon? Their replacements Crespo (who is playing second while Pokey "friend of Gumby” Reese moves over to short) and Ellis Burks are respectively hitting .176 and .091. No, that’s not a typo. Burks is hitting .091 – that would even be considered a slump for Cirillo.